Escalation – A Collector’s Story

European G1 Starscream

It’s 1984 and you’re too young to remember The Transformers. It’s 1986 and you’ve seen “Arrival from Cybertron” on television and VHS many times. You are moved by Starscream’s traitorous behaviour and Mirage’s heroism. Your parents take you, your older brother and cousin to the biggest Toys ‘R’ Us around. While you’re looking at Teddy Ruxpin bears your mother says “Your brother and cousin have already found the Transformers”. Your life will never be the same again. 

(Soundtrack: Love Me Do – The Beatles)

Your first toy is Starscream, while your brother buys Tracks and your cousin has Skywarp (which you never get to play with). You love the jets, you love the cars, but strangely you never feel drawn to the leaders. The television cartoon is everything. Your second toy is Bumblebee, but for some reason his face is red, he looks different and the card says “Hub Cap”. He is broken and lost soon after, as is your first Autobot car “Smokescreen” who you never saw on the TV, but Argos didn’t have Jazz in stock.

1986 Argos catalogue

What happened to those boxes!?

It’s 1987 and Transformers: The Movie makes you and your classmates cry, Optimus Prime is dead and the Transformers never quite feel the same again. You watch the VHS until the reels are as worn as your Rodimus Prime, Cyclonus and Targetmaster Scourge. You borrow Hot Rod from your friend to re-enact the matrix scene. It’s 1988, there’s a power outage, and for your birthday your brother buys you Powermaster Optimus Prime, the first Optimus you’ve ever owned. What are big brothers for?

(Soundtrack: True Faith – New Order)

It’s 1990, your first loves are now football and your Commodore Amiga. On a family holiday in Cyprus you spot a Transformers Sunstreaker which you had never owned, your mother says “yes” for a change and Sideswipe finally has a brother, it’s a shame he disintegrated years before. After a few Micromasters, your connection with Transformers is lost and for an age, they are forgotten.

Classic Heroes Sunstreaker

It’s 1998 and you’re at University, with proper access to the Internet for the first time. After becoming disillusioned with ‘adult life’, a day spent looking up all of your childhood favourites online reignites a curiosity about Transformers. You see toys that neither you nor your friends had as children; Swoop, Blaster, Shockwave, Bluestreak…and you cannot ever imagine what kind of person spends $150 on a sealed Transformers toy. You are surprised they even exist.

(Soundtrack: Things Behind The Sun – Nick Drake)

It’s 1999 and you have started spending noticeable amounts of money buying Transformers from old collector’s shops and from websites like Digital Toys. “I want to buy all those Transformers I didn’t have as a kid” – yep, that old chestnut. One particular trip to a South London shop with a couple of close friends and £400 later yields a boxed Jetfire, a boxed Megatron and a Mexican Devastator giftset. Your friend buys a Hot Rod, you ask him to bring it with him every time you meet up, what a great toy.

G1 Hot Rod

It’s 2000, you’ve discovered eBay and met a UK collector who introduces you to the online community. Your rate of purchases increases exponentially with access to toys at prices previously unthinkable from UK collector stores or dealers. Swoop, Shockwave, Springer, Prowl, Predaking, this is now a serious and time-consuming hobby. Someone you speak to on Napster informs you of impending reissues.

(Soundtrack: Alabama Song – The Doors)

It’s 2001 and you have co-created an active forum, met Dutch and American collectors and learnt about ‘variants’, Mexican and Japanese Transformers through the Yahoo Diaclone Group, TFToys UK Group and ArtfireStepper’s gallery website. You also learn about pre-Transformers and the rainbow of pre-Autobot Diaclone cars. Suddenly you are no longer interested in completing your G1 collection, nostalgia is forgotten and you become a variant and pre-TF collector. You attend your first toy show at Transforce 2001 and meet the people you have gotten to know online for the first time. They’re as ‘normal’ as you.

Mexican Black Prowl

It’s 2002 and you’ve written your first online toy review (Hot Rod!), and begun contributing to various community websites. You are now a fully-fledged variant and Diaclone collector, chasing obscure and rare toys that most people do not own, and yet you’ve still never had a Defensor, Blaster, Skids or Bruticus to name but a few. Spending multiple hundreds on a toy has become acceptable to you as your circle of collecting friends becomes ever wider, diverse and influential on your tastes and habits. You start taking notice of and making scans of copyrights.

(Soundtrack: Sail To The Moon – Radiohead)

It’s 2003 and life has dealt you a few painful episodes. You start praying when things become serious and sell your collection for the first time in a prolonged act of catharsis and sacrifice. You hand over control of your forum to friends who still own it to this day.

Alternators, Binaltechs, Metals Transforms and proto Alternators

It’s 2004 and the discovery of a Finnish Diaclone Black Tracks plus the arrival of Alternators/Binaltech brings you back to the hobby. You find room in your life for work, a number of pointless relationships and Transformers again. You create your own website at last and collect together all the articles you had ever written for other people. It’s 2006 and one particularly messy break up finally causes you to break down and buy your first Joustra Diaclone, redefining for you what it means to fall in love with a toy line.

(Soundtrack: Pressure Suit – Aqualung)

It’s 2007 and you have attended your second BotCon in the USA, toured Hasbro and become intoxicated by the fever surrounding the first Michael Bay Transformers movie attending both UK and US advance screenings. You are now dabbling in many more niches of the hobby including expensive G1 and modern protoypes, original artwork, pre-production rarities while maintaining an interest in current product and contributing to hobby publications. On your way home from BotCon 2007 via New York you meet the girl who will become your wife.

G2 Mirage mock-up prototype

It’s 2008 and flying back and forth between Iceland, the USA and the UK to maintain your long distance relationship has an effect on your finances and your interest in Transformers. Your desire to become a top racing simulation gamer overshadows any other hobbies you had. You sell the bulk of your collection again, but keep your Joustra Diaclones, Movie toys, Binaltech and a few choice Japanese and prototype pieces. As the Bay movies come and go you buy the odd imported US figure in Iceland from Classics, Animated and Movie lines. It’s 2009 and you read out the best man speech at the wedding of a friend who you met through Transformers collecting. You make an eBay joke which goes down well.

(Soundtrack: Life In Technicolour II – Coldplay)

It’s 2011 and you’re married. The discovery of a boxed Joustra Diaclone red Tracks drags you back to the hobby again and you explore the possibility of resuming your old quest to complete that toy line. You are shocked at the relative price of Diaclones and pre-Transformers compared to just 3 years ago when you last sold your toys. You instantly regret every exit you made from the hobby. You meet 3 European-based collectors that renew your faith in the humanity of people you’ve never met and spark a new inspiration and enthusiasm for collecting and writing articles again. You resurrect your website and start selling your non-central toys to fund your new-found acceptance of 4-figure sums for the toys you love. Your interest in sim-racing fades as toy collecting becomes your primary hobby again.

Joustra Diaclone Corvette

It’s 2012, and you’ve sold practically all of your Classics, Movie, Alternators, prototype, variant and G1 Transformers in order to fund your expensive pursuit of the Diaclones you once sold and a complete Joustra Diaclone collection. In addition to your European brothers, you become friends with 2 Asian collectors who buck the trend of greed and selfishness in a hobby that seems rife with it, further enriching your experience. You finally purchase a Finnish Diaclone Black Tracks and a number of pre-TFs that had not previously been photographed together, or in some cases individually, ever before. Your collection is once again what you want it to be, but you own fewer toys than ever before.

(Soundtrack: Sovereign Light Cafe – Keane)

You are now a father, and 9 toys away from your collecting goal of a complete Joustra Diaclone run. You own carded moulding variants, boxed copyright stamping variants, factory shipping cases, paperwork in multiple languages, catalogues, trade fair listings and toy industry publications for the same toy line. You take pride in owning European variants of Diaclone toys that nobody else you know does in the most competitive and expensive era of pre-Transformers collecting. The most sought-after items on your wants list today are a particular styrofoam insert and a Joustra Diaclone toy with a 3-line copyright as opposed to the more common circle-copyright. You own 3 vintage “Transformers”.

You won’t be leaving by the same road that you came by.

Joustra Diaclone Toyota fist variants

Joustra, Finnish and GiG Ligier

Credit to Anthony Voz (Trippyglitters) for the 1986 Argos catalogue scan.

All the best



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